Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
The pattern on the side of this smally makes me drool. These two pics are edited via magic.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
1) We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.
2) Now members of the leadership class are engaged in a perpetual state of war. Each side seeks daily advantage in ways that poison the long-term reputations of everybody involved.
3) There’s less emphasis on steady, gradual change and more emphasis on the big swing. This produces more spectacular failures and more uncertainty. Many Americans, not caught up on the romance of this sort of heroism, are terrified.
The Power Elite
By David Brooks
One of the great achievements of modern times is that we have made society more fair. Sixty years ago, the upper echelons were dominated by what E. Digby Baltzell called The Protestant Establishment and C. Wright Mills called The Power Elite. If your father went to Harvard, you had a 90 percent chance of getting in yourself, and the path upward from there was grooved in your favor.
Since then, we have opened up opportunities for women, African-Americans, Jews, Italians, Poles, Hispanics and members of many other groups. Moreover, we’ve changed the criteria for success. It is less necessary to be clubbable. It is more important to be smart and hard-working.
Yet here’s the funny thing. As we’ve made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.
It’s not even clear that society is better led. Fifty years ago, the financial world was dominated by well-connected blue bloods who drank at lunch and played golf in the afternoons. Now financial firms recruit from the cream of the Ivy League. In 2007, 47 percent of Harvard grads went into finance or consulting. Yet would we say that banks are performing more ably than they were a half-century ago?
Government used to be staffed by party hacks. Today, it is staffed by people from public policy schools. But does government work better than it did before?
Journalism used to be the preserve of working-class stiffs who filed stories and hit the bars. Now it is the preserve of cultured analysts who file stories and hit the water bottles. Is the media overall more reputable now than it was then?
The promise of the meritocracy has not been fulfilled. The talent level is higher, but the reputation is lower.
Why has this happened? I can think of a few contributing factors.
First, the meritocracy is based on an overly narrow definition of talent. Our system rewards those who can amass technical knowledge. But this skill is only marginally related to the skill of being sensitive to context. It is not related at all to skills like empathy. Over the past years, we’ve seen very smart people make mistakes because they didn’t understand the context in which they were operating.
Second, this new system has created new social chasms. In the old days, there were obviously big differences between people whose lives were defined by “The Philadelphia Story” and those who were defined by “The Grapes of Wrath.” But if you ran the largest bank in Murfreesboro, Tenn., you probably lived in Murfreesboro. Now you live in Charlotte or New York City. You might have married a secretary. Now you marry another banker. You would have had similar lifestyle habits as other people in town. Now the lifestyle patterns of the college-educated are very different from the patterns in other classes. Social attitudes are very different, too.
It could be that Americans actually feel less connected to their leadership class now than they did then, with good reason.
Third, leadership-class solidarity is weaker. The Protestant Establishment was inbred. On the other hand, those social connections placed informal limits on strife. Personal scandals were hushed up. Now members of the leadership class are engaged in a perpetual state of war. Each side seeks daily advantage in ways that poison the long-term reputations of everybody involved.
Fourth, time horizons have shrunk. If you were an old blue blood, you traced your lineage back centuries, and there was a decent chance that you’d hand your company down to members of your clan. That subtly encouraged long-term thinking.
Now people respond to ever-faster performance criteria — daily stock prices or tracking polls. This perversely encourages reckless behavior. To leave a mark in a fast, competitive world, leaders seek to hit grandiose home runs. Clinton tried to transform health care. Bush tried to transform the Middle East. Obama has tried to transform health care, energy and much more.
There’s less emphasis on steady, gradual change and more emphasis on the big swing. This produces more spectacular failures and more uncertainty. Many Americans, not caught up on the romance of this sort of heroism, are terrified.
Fifth, society is too transparent. Since Watergate, we have tried to make government as open as possible. But as William Galston of the Brookings Institution jokes, government should sometimes be shrouded for the same reason that middle-aged people should be clothed. This isn’t Galston’s point, but I’d observe that the more government has become transparent, the less people are inclined to trust it.
This is not to say that we should return to the days of the WASP ascendancy. That’s neither possible nor desirable. Rather, our system of promotion has grown some pretty serious problems, which are more evident with each passing day.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
-The concluding statement from a recent article I liked. It has to do with what types of articles people like to email, or in my case pass along through a blog.
It turns out that science rules!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
During the years of the Bush administration the only thing that would get me more frustrated than the Iraq war were the people who were against it, but had no real alternative message (other than-let's just go home). I was always against the war. It never seemed quite right (what with the misplaced WMD's and constantly evolving reasons for being there). But I also could not deny some real issues in Iraq that needed to be dealt with. But how? I don't know. Thus, I was always frustrated by the whole thing, I didn't like it, but I didn't know what else we could do, go home I guess. But would that really fix anything? Then I'd hear a politician speaking out against the war (a message I could identify with) but in a tone that was clearly meant for grandstanding. They had no real message, no alternative, it was: let's just not do what we are doing now and mainly because my political party is not in charge.
Today, we get the same thing from most Republicans. Their message sounds eerily similar: "Let's just not deal with the Health Care issue and maybe it will go away." Or worse yet, "lets kill any bill in order to make the President look bad." A better, more responsible, approach is to propose some alternative way to bring down the deficit without abandoning the Gov't services that we all depend on. And you do depend on the gov't, unless you live in a glass ball with no infrastructure. It is easy to think we don't, but we do. This is why I like the recent plans put forth by Paul Ryan, U.S. Congressman from Wisconsin. You can find more information here: http://www.roadmap.republicans.budget.house.gov/
First off, I'm not exactly sure that I'll continue to like it in the future, but I do now (remember I waffle). The main reason I like it is because it makes some pretty major changes to how the primary Gov't expenses are handled (health care, medicare, social security). The rest of the federal budget appears to remain relatively intact, thus preserving the services we all currently benefit from.
The main premise is that people need to choose and pay for their own insurance. That is the only way we can actually see what various procedures cost, because we handle the account. I remember when Halene was born, the ultrasound technician asked us real casually, "Would you like the standard ultrasound or the 4d?" We didn't know we had an option, or what the cost difference was. The technician suggested the 4d because it was really neat. We got the 4d, it cost our insurance provider $3,000 more than the standard and made our child look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I don't see any way to bring down health care costs without making the costs visible. To offset the cost of buying our own insurance, we get a tax break of $5,000 to $11,000 per person or couple respectively. In the end, it is expected that costs will be reigned in, people will be in charge of their care, and all will be covered. After all, weren't those the goals of health care reform in the first place? I like what I've read so far, what do you think?
Note: I truly do not have a strong opinion on this matter and welcome debate.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
A nice write-up on math and why it is usefull. Very simple introduction to numbers, concepts that my 3-year old is starting to grasp and which I continue to think about. What is a number?
Monday, February 1, 2010
I tied up a few gar flies last night in hopes that I might actually hook one this year. Any day of the week that the Black River is flowing there are gar surfacing in the pool below the house. I'm talking about the flowing portion of the black river, not the impounded portion. After many days with no hook-ups last year, I ended up just ignoring them to focus on smallmouth. Not this year, this year my goal is to not only hook and land a gar, but figure out how to get them to take on a consistent basis.
From Wikipedia: Gar bodies are elongated, heavily armored with ganoid scales, and fronted by similarly elongated jaws filled with long sharp teeth. Their tails are heterocercal, and the dorsal fins are close to the tail. As their vascularised swim bladders can function as lungs, most gar surface periodically to take a gulp of air, doing so more frequently in stagnant or warm water when the concentration of oxygen in the water is low. As a result, they are extremely hardy and able to tolerate conditions that would kill most other fish.
The interesting thing about the gar in the Black River is that they were surfacing all the way to ice-up last year. Also, the water conditions in the Black are great for smallmouth, it isn't extremely low in dissolved oxygen. Here are some links to guys fly fishing for gar. What you will find in common is that they are all catching these fish in stillwaters, not flowing rivers like the Black.
Fishing for gar in moving waters (and particularly big rivers) presents a number of problems in just getting a fly to the fish. So that is really the number one issue I'll need to tackle early this year, how to deliver a 6-10" long fly across a big river to a fish that doesn't seem to want to take a moving prey item. I'm thinking a 20' spey rod would make life easier. Until the ice thaws, here are some flies.
First, unravel some rope.